The following is a letter I sent to Brampton 311, Councillor Gael Miles, and Councillor Sandra Hames.
Hello. I’m Kevin Montgomery, a car-free resident of Brampton.
I suggest a pilot project to install bike traffic signals and a bi-directional bike lane to connect the Don Doan Trail to Bramalea GO Station. The specific locations I suggest for bike traffic signals are at the intersections of Bramalea Rd. at Avondale/Dearbourne Blvds. on the north and west sides, and at the intersection of Bramalea Rd. at Steeles Ave. on the west side, with a bi-directional bike lane connecting the two intersections on the west side of Bramalea Rd. Please see the map image with illustration for reference.
My commute usually sees me taking my bike to and from Brampton GO Station downtown. If it’s early enough (before traffic picks up), I’ll sometimes take my bike to Bramalea GO Station in the morning by way of Birchbank Rd. and Avondale Blvd. Unlike Brampton GO Station, taking a bicycle for multi-modal connectivity to Bramalea GO Station is not easily done, and especially not for the faint of heart as traffic increases. This is particularly true for northbound trips trying to leave the station during rush hour, which puts someone on a bicycle in the awkward position of trying to get to the north-east side of Steeles/Bramalea and merging with heavy, impatient, and fast-moving automotive traffic. A bi-directional bike lane on Bramalea Rd. would solve this problem for cyclists by removing the need to merge with automotive traffic at all. It would need only one road crossing on the same side as the pedestrian exit on the south-west corner of the intersection, and cut construction costs by only building one lane instead of two.
The problem of parking and the traffic it creates in that area could be easily reduced by encouraging people in the Bramalea area to make a healthier lifestyle choice, leave their cars at home, and take their bikes to the Bramalea GO Station by way of the Don Doan trail and nearby north-south Pathways. Installing bike traffic signals and a bi-directional bike lane would allow for easier, meaningful, and most importantly safe, bicycle travel and multi-modal connectivity to existing Pathways into Bramalea and onwards.
I feel like I owe everyone a thank you, and an apology. A thank you because the Carfree webapp started seeing steady use earlier than I expected. This resulted in one of the APIs I was using, specifically one to do an approximate geolocation based on IP address, to reach a request limit. This in turn, caused the Carfree webapp to fail. So, I thank you, and apologize for that.
I’ve switched to a new IP geolocate provider, and the webapp *should* see more stability for a while. At least, where geolocation is concerned.
It’s taken me a few months, but I finally have a Carfree app that I’m ready to share with everyone.
What is Carfree?
Whether you’re trying to go “car light”, or remove your dependency on a car altogether, this app should help you decide the best way to get to where you want to go, without using a car. It has a few features that I hope you’ll find neat.
The Blue Circle
When the map first loads, you’ll see a blue circle located where you are, as best the app can tell. Any place in the circle is within a 7km ride, or about 30 minutes. Most of the time, you can cycle to these locations faster than taking transit. The map itself also colour codes bike-friendly infrastructure, and roads labelled as highway or arterial, to help you choose the route you want to take.
Your Preference of Cycling or Transit
Whether you prefer to take your bike or take your local transit, the app will give you the ideal route to take to where you’re going. When you search for destinations, the ones closest to you are favoured.
Looking for places to visit? The app can show you places nearby and give you the best route to get there. Step-by-step instructions are available for both cycling and transit options.
Whether you’re trying to go car light, or car free altogether, give this app a try. Your feedback is welcome!
I recently read a report published by The Conference Board of Canada, titled “Where The Rubber Meets The Road: How Much Motorists Pay For Road Infrastructure”. While I recall seeing this report in October 2013, for whatever reason it failed to adequately capture my attention until 3 months later. The synopsis of the document is that motorists largely already pay a sufficient amount back towards the cost of maintaining the road network in Ontario, and do not receive significant subsidization. By the calculations presented in this report, if you add the taxes and fees people pay to drive, and compare them to the estimated costs of maintaining the road network in Ontario, drivers pay something like 70-90% of recovery costs.
While drafting this post, I discovered an article that refuted these points. Written 3 months earlier in July 2013, the article called “News flash for drivers: Cyclists are helping subsidize your ride” includes examples of how taxes actually work, and is worth a read. The post I’ve written largely mirrors these points: Fuel taxes and fees that motorists pay are not direct sources of revenue for road infrastructure. For people who drive to say that they (alone) pay for the roads is a fallacy.
The Determination of Revenue and Expenses
The detailed calculations carefully put together in The Conference Board of Canada report do not seem to show how revenue is actually collected, used, and how transportation expenses are paid for, in the service of our Ontario roadways. It is true that drivers pay taxes that are unique to them for the privilege to drive, such as Fuel and Gasoline taxes. The error lies in suggesting that they in any way supply direct revenue for the building and maintenance of the roads that cars drive on. The coffers that fund all provincial programs, including health and education, also fund highway expenditures. Calculating a ratio against the fuel taxes is no more relevant than comparing to revenue generated by cigarette, or LCBO tax collection. In Brampton, where I live, The provincial “Gas Tax” revenue is used as a grant to the municipality. Instead of paying for roads, it helps to subsidize Brampton Transit. The federal gas tax on the other hand, which must spent on capital expenses, gets split between road resurfacing and transit bus replacements.
The publication includes costs of municipal roads and associated policing into the overall provincial cost. This is also erroneus: Municipal roads are paid for by property taxes in that municipality. If you drive in any municipality in which you do not live, then you are not paying for those roads. Unless you are evaluating the budget for the municipality you live in, the cost of maintaining and policing roads is irrelevant to Ontarians. The publication notes that the “estimate does not allow for any allocation of costs to non-users. Moreover, the results mask the issue of the imbalance of revenues and expenditures by level of government. The federal government collects a significant portion of the revenues but owns and maintains a relatively small portion of the road network, whereas local governments find themselves in the opposite situation.”
So, what does this all mean? Are road users subsidized? Or do they mostly pay their own way? Municipal property owners, inclusive of those who prefer to take transit or bicycle, pay for their municipal road networks—everyone who drives into a municipality they do not live in, are driving on roads they did not pay for. Every highway in Ontario is paid for by Ontarians through taxation, whether they drive or not. When you consider how many Ontarians outside the GTA are not using the highways within the GTA, you have to ask yourself: Who’s subsiding who?
This section is more of an aside, but something that I nonetheless found annoying interesting.
At the opening of the report, it states under Acknowledgements that “The authors thank Teresa Di Felice and Christine Allum of the Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario (CAASCO) for initiating and defining the research and research questions…The Conference Board also acknowledges the CAASCO for financially supporting this research. In keeping with Conference Board guidelines for financed research, the design and method of research, as well as the content of this report, were determined solely by the Conference Board. The Conference Board of Canada alone is responsible for the report’s methodology, scope, and findings.” While The Conference Board of Canada claims to be “Objective and non-partisan.” They are “Funded exclusively through the fees we charge for services to the private and public sectors.”
This doesn’t quite pass the sniff test for me. The Conference Board developed “the design and method of research, as well as the content of this report”. But the first thing you have to ask is, what are they designing for? What are the questions? Who’s asking them? The CAASCO is asking the questions, and funding the project.
Actually, perhaps that is not entirely accurate. After all, who or what is the CSSASO? “CAA South Central Ontario has a long-standing history as an innovative leader committed to meeting and exceeding the needs of Canada’s motoring and travelling public” (emphasis added). CAA is funded by many, many people who are light-duty vehicle owners. That the report concludes that “Light-duty vehicle users cover a significant portion of road infrastructure costs” is likely not a coincidence.
It does not make sense to license and insure cycling.
Using licensing and insuring cycling as an argument for somehow holding cycling accountable is a fallacy. It holds no basis in fact, it’s a distraction from bad driving habits. Being licensed does nothing to stop motorists from rolling stops, rolling right turns or blocking crosswalks at red lights, and of course, driving at speeds over the posted limit. These kinds of actions in an automobile kill people, and cause costly accidents.
Why does driving a car require a license? Why are drivers required to be insured? Is the government out to punish people who choose to drive a car?
Cars are expensive, and dangerous. People take out loans to pay for them, and at times put maintenance on credit. The debt a car leaves behind if it’s destroyed can take people’s lives down with it. That’s why they’re insured. Cars driven carelessly kill people. That’s why they’re licensed. Bicycles do not share these problems. That’s why they are not licensed or insured, and why it does not make sense to do so.
On May 15, 2013, Brampton Council approved the request by the Department of Works and Transportation to carry out their Bicycle Facilities Implementation Plan including the submission to become a Bicycle Friendly Community. Council also approved a request to have the Brampton Bicycle Advisory Committee I’ve been a part of for a few months officially recognized and supported.
While the next steps with the city are as of yet unclear, it’s very exciting to see that Brampton Council seems to see the promise that cycling holds as a transportation solution.
There might come a time while you’re riding, unfortunately, when you see or find yourself a victim of bullying or ignorance on the streets. If you witness or are a victim of dangerous, aggressive, or unlawful driving such as speeding, unsafe lane changes, or unsafe passing, you might decide to report the incident to the police.
In the City of Toronto and in Peel Region, both police forces have an online form that you can use to report the incident.
Filing a report might be appropriate in instances where:
No collision has occurred. If the incident resulted in a collision, call the police.
The suspect driver is not known to you. If the identity of the driver is known, call the police.
The suspect’s licence plate number was obtained. A brief description of the vehicle is also required to confirm the licence plate information. (For specific driving complaint incidents).
There is a continuous neighbourhood driving complaint where a specific place, day(s) and time(s) of the issues can be supplied for follow-up action.
A detailed description of the incident should be submitted. Providing as much information as possible will help to make sure that action will be taken against the suspect vehicle owner. If the incident happened outside of Toronto, try filing with their form anyway. Your report may be forwarded to the local Police of the city where the incident occurred.
If you decide to file a report, you can find them at these links: